Have you ever noticed that “visionary leaders” are only identified as such after the fact…once their crazy, improbable, unrealistic idea that few thought was actually feasible has proven its worth?
What are the lessons for leaders in this observation?
Sometimes our most “visionary” ideas seem crazy, improbable and unrealistic to others when we first propose them. Smart, experienced people whose opinion you value will point out the barriers to your idea, maybe even question the logic of what you are considering. They will probably be right…and sometimes leaders have to put logic in a box…not forever, but at least long enough to establish the potential upside should you succeed with said crazy idea.
It is also important to note that most visionary leaders don’t start out trying to be visionary. They start out trying to address an issue that has not been solved by applying logic. As Albert Einstein once noted, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will get you everywhere else.” Logic feels safer, but often times the answer lies “somewhere else”.
New ideas can be challenging, risky, even painful, and yet a visionary leader’s commitment to finding a solution has to be stronger than the comfort of what they know. It is a leader’s job to envision a way forward, and then to paint a picture for others so they too can see the potential for success.
Finally, visionary leaders decide. Once they have shared the vision, listened to the logical arguments and considered both the potential risks and rewards, leaders have to make the call. The world is full of dreamers who did everything but this final step in the process. There are no guarantees. Sometimes, you just have to leap: not blindly — it can and should be a calculated risk — but you still have to make a choice to step away from what you know based on the belief of what could be. True, you might come up short…and then again you might not. You won’t know until you try.
You will only be considered visionary in hindsight. First, you have to be willing to take the leap.